Hui weaves Pacific-Asia connections

Leadership Network member Liam Kokaua writes about the network's recent Tāngata Moana Hui, describing the ceremony and protocols that made the hui a distinctly Pacific occasion, where connections between the peoples of the Pacific and Asia were explored.

Watch this video to get a taste of the Tangata Moana Hui

How much do you know about the connections between Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (The Pacific Ocean) and Asia?

What about the connections between Tāngata Moana (people of Pacific Islands descent) and Tāngata Āhia (people of Asian descent) and their respective cultures, languages, values and history?

Te Whītau Tūhonoʻs inaugural Tāngata Moana Hui was held in June in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland and looked at these very connections between the two regions, through applying a past, present and future lens. Fifty young leaders from the wider Leadership Network attended.

As always in Tāngata Moana cultures, adherence to ceremonial protocols took centre stage during the hui. When done right, ceremony upholds the mana of the event, the mana of those attending, and also ensures the continuance of indigenous values, traditions and languages.

When done right, ceremony upholds the mana of the event, the mana of those attending, and also ensures the continuance of indigenous values, traditions and languages.

The hui struck a fine balance between ceremonies from different cultures of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, including a tūrou (traditional welcome) from ʻAvaiki Nui (the Cook Islands), a kava ceremony led by Pakilau Manase Lua in accordance to Tongan protocols, and a valaʻau ai (a formal call to eat) as performed in Samoa.

Two Leadership Network members chatting to each other in a hall

The hui was a chance for Leadership Network members to share ideas and perspectives

After these protocols, a more festive pō fiafia (evening of entertainment) saw dance groups from Tonga and Mitiaro engage with attendees, alongside a beautiful island feast and an incredible keynote speaker, Jemaima Tiatia-Siau.

Outside of these traditions, important talanoa (respectful dialogue) with Tāngata Moana community leaders and Leadership Network members took place.

Our first talanoa considered the ʻpastʻ, because in Tāngata Moana and many indigenous cultures, one must understand the past in order to understand the present and future.

In order to do this, we looked at oral traditions, linguistics, archaeology, and recent lived history of the connections between Te Moana Nui a Kiwa and Asia. For example, Tāngata Moana belong to the Austronesian peoples, whom originated in Taiwan 4000 years ago. Tāngata Moana therefore have shared genetic, linguistic and cultural features with people from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and even Madagascar!

Examples of talanoa that focussed on the ʻpresentʻ considered how we define ourselves as Tāngata Moana today.

We weighed the pros and cons of names such as ʻPacific’ and ʻPasifika’, to refer to the region, the body of water, and its people.

We discussed the cultural nuances within and between Tāngata Moana cultures as well as the impact of colonial territorial boundaries on our ocean of islands.

With these thoughts in mind, we told stories through the practice of printmaking alongside contemporary ʻAvaiki Nui artist Numangatini Mackenzie.

We also heard from the impressive Barbara Dreaver about some of the geopolitical challenges currently facing Te Moana Nui a Kiwa as a region, and the important role our island nations have in contemporary global politics. We also pondered the question of why many Tāngata Moana are so fascinated with K-pop culture here in Aotearoa.

Finally, when we look to the future, we talked about economic, cultural and environmental opportunities within the two regions. For example, we heard from Ufitia Sagapolutele and Filo Tiatia about their experiences as Tāngata Moana working in Asia, in the dance and sports industries respectively.

We also heard from Leadership Network member Joshua Tan about his career path and opportunities within the trade and business space between Te Moana Nui a Kiwa and Asia.

I was so impressed by the attendees from our wider Leadership Network and their eagerness to learn about Tāngata Moana cultures, and to give things a go (including getting pulled up to dance!). This included engaging with our three key Tāngata Moana values that we outlined at the beginning of the hui, which are relationships, respect, and reciprocity.

Watch a slideshow of images from the hui

I was privleged to be a member of the Tāngata Moana working group for the Foundation - helping to organise the hui. The group included Xavier Breed, Joshua Tan, Latu Clark, Saia Mataele, Ashalyna Noa, Anna Zam, Kauri Tearaura, Fine Koloamatangi, Rāniera Kaio, and TJ Vaʻa. We were supported in our work by Asia New Zealand Foundation board member Tupe Solomon-Tanoaʻi and the Foundation staff.

I'd like to thank our amazing guest speakers and workshop leads, the Foundation for supporting this dream of ours to become a reality, and to all the Leadership Network members who attended for being curious and open to new practices and perspectives and giving everything a go!

Thank you to the Fale Pasifika crew, ceremony leaders and performers who became part of the whānau – including Pakilau Manase Lua, Numangatini Mackenzie, Barbara Dreaver, Associate Professor Jemaima Tiatia-Siau, Filo Tiatia, Ufitia Sagapolutele, the Tongan Students Association of the University of Auckland - TAUA and Nukuroa Enua.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network equips New Zealand’s next generation of Kiwi leaders to thrive in Asia. We provide members with the connections, knowledge and confidence to lead New Zealand’s future relationship with the region.